Tuesday, January 4, 2011
We just got back from Rome, and we are working on a long blog with lots of pictures. However, there was also something we learned during this trip, which we did not expect. Our visit to Rome gave us a little better perspective on our life here in Bulgaria.
Lynn and I are often amazed at “fashions” in Bulgaria and some of the things being sold in the windows of the upscale stores popping up around Plovdiv. Walking around Rome, we began to see why there are so many “imitator’s” here. Rome was filled with small specialty stores selling very high-end “designer” shoes, bags, clothes, etc. We found Louis Vuittan, Burberry, and other handbags selling for as much as 450 Euros. (By the way 450 Euros is almost equal to our combined monthly salary here!) Dress shirts for small boys were 75 Euros, and Lynn was sure the little boys would have the shirts “hanging over their pants” within 30 minutes of putting them on. Shoes were prices anywhere from 200 to 500 Euros – and there were not any diamonds on them! But in Bulgaria, we see many stores widows “hyping” Italian designs, or designer names. We still don’t know anyone who can afford these items here in Bulgaria (at least none of the people we know can purchase them). However, there are some folks here who seem to have the money to buy them. We noticed that many of the Bulgarians on our plane back had shopping bags filled with expensive items (or they were already wearing them). It almost seemed like Bulgaria is the “poor stepchild”, who is constantly striving to try to be like their rich relatives.
In addition to this, it was much easier to see (and experience) the real differences between Eastern and Western Europe. Things worked in Rome! There were signs, and it was easy to find your way around. It was well lit, and walking was easy. The busses and subways worked, and machines cleaned the streets daily. In contrast, when we arrived back last Sunday night, we got onto an old “double decker” bus that did not have any working reading lights. It also did not have very good springs, and rattled along during the 2 hour trip to Plovdiv. The public toilets in the airport were not clean, and we had to “re-remember” to put the toilet paper in separate basket. On the city bus home from the bus station in Plovdiv, we noticed the “call buttons” telling the driver to stop at the next stop were NOT operational (which is normal). And in the morning, there will be the Roma (Gypsy) street cleaners out “sprucing up” the roads with their twig and stick brooms instead of an army of mechanized street cleaners. Finally, as we started the final 7 minute walk home from the bus stop, we were not able to walk on the sidewalks because those are for car parking. We were walking in the back streets, and “sharing the road” with other cars.
None of these are really big issues. It is just the way it is. It is not good or bad! They are all small symbols of the differences between countries – even countries which are only a short 70 minute plane ride away - - One hour-plus and a world apart.
Thanks for Reading.